The Florida football team opens the 2016 season by hosting UMass at the Swamp on Saturday evening. Opening kick-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium with coverage airing nationally on the SEC Network. The Baltimore Gator Club will welcome in the new season by hosting a watch party at the Greene Turtle at McHenry Row.
Last season under first-year head coach Jim McElwain the Gators started off with six straight wins and won 11 of their first 12 games to clinch the SEC East Title. Unfortunately, UF dropped its final three games of the year, including the SEC Championship game to Alabama, and the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl to Michigan, to finish with a 10-4 overall record and7-1 mark in SEC play. The conference title game appearance was the first for the Gators since 2009.
In McElwain’s second year, the Gators will start the season with redshirt sophomore transfer Luke Del Rio under center. The son of Oakland Raiders’ head coach Jack Del Rio, Luke transferred from Oregon State after serving as the Beavers’ second-string quarterback during the 2014 campaign. UF will also be replacing its top runner from last year as sophomores Jordan Cronkrite and Jordan Scarlettare expected to pick up much of the load from the departed Kelvin Taylor.
With the youth on offense, the Orange and Blue will look to its defense again to provide stability. Under the direction of coordinator Geoff Collins, the Gator D ranked seventh in the nation a year ago, giving up just 16.5 points per game, and recorded 40.0 sacks, good for fifth in the country.
In all, the Gators return 16 starters this year, 12 of which come from the offensive and defensive units.
UMass stumbled to a 3-9 record last year under ninth-year head coach MarkWhipple, but won two of its final three contests. The Minutemen struggled on offense in 2015, averaging just 22.2 pts. per game to rank 108th in the country. The UMass defense was only slightly better ranking-wise, coming in at 93rd while yielding 31.4 pts. per game.
Saturday’s contest will be the first-ever meeting in football between Florida and UMass.